The Senate has passed a bill that would grant "safe haven" in the United States to up to 500 Iraqi weapons scientists and their families in exchange for critical information.
The bipartisan Iraqi Scientists Immigration Act, sponsored by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) would grant asylum to the Iraqi scientists in exchange for "critical and reliable information" on Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. According to Sen. Biden, the bill is meant to encourage scientists, engineers, technicians and others to leave Iraqs weapons programs and provide information to governments and international institutions that are committed to dismantling them.
"I am pleased that the Republican leadership in the Senate finally allowed the Iraqi Scientists Immigration Act to pass. I urge the House of Representatives to take speedy action on this bill. A victorious coalition will still need to locate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and to keep Iraqi weapons experts from selling their materials or knowledge to rogue states or terrorist groups. We should move quickly to give the Administration this bill's authority to offer positive inducements, if it finds that they are needed," said Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
"Those who are willing to provide truthful information will merit our protection. And their information will go a long way toward helping us fully expose the scope of Saddam Husseins weapons program and safely disable and dispose of those weapons," concluded Biden.
The bill permits the Attorney General, on a case-by-case basis in coordination with the Secretary of State and the Director of Central Intelligence, to admit a foreigner and his family if such person:
- has worked in an Iraqi program to produce weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them;
- is willing to supply or has supplied critical and reliable information on that program to an agency of the United States Government;
- may be willing to supply or has supplied such information to United Nations or IAEA inspectors; and
- will be or has been placed in danger as a result of providing such information.
The Attorney General will also have the authority to give legal permanent resident status to persons who provide the promised information.
The bill passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, and must now be approved by the House of Representatives.
A similar program during World War II extended asylum to Nazi rocket scientists, including Werner von Braun, who went on to play a key role in the successful development of the U.S. space exploration program.